RAMAPO, N.Y. – A 67-year-old gymnastics coach who trained children in gyms he owned in Hillburn and Suffern has been accused of sexually abusing at least five youngsters under 13 from 2001-2014, Ramapo, N.Y., police said Thursday.
Joseph Lewin of Port Chester, also known as Joseph Lewandoski, is charged with five counts of second-degree course of sexual conduct against a child and first-degree sexual abuse, both felonies, police said during a Thursday morning news conference at Police Headquarters.
“We’re concerned there could be more victims,” Detective Lt. Michael Colbath said, standing with Police Chief Brad Weidel and the lead investigators, Detectives Robert Fitzgerald and Jonathan Quinn.
Colbath said Lewin worked at a number of gymnastics places in Rockland County and possibly outside of New York. Suffern borders Hillburn and Mahwah, New Jersey.
Police declined to reveal any details that could potentially help identify the people who claim to have been abused by Lewin. Colbath declined to release the gender of the survivors, where they are from or say whether there was physical evidence, such as emails or recordings.
“This is a very sensitive issue,” Colbath said. “Hopefully, this will bring some closure for the victims.”
The charges follow revelations by gymnasts discussing their sexual abuse by Dr. Larry Nassar, the physician for the Olympic and Michigan State University teams.
Nassar has been sentenced to a maximum of 175 years in prison for abusing more than 160 girls and young women. He also faces a 60-year sentence for pornography crimes.
Weidel said he would be “speculating” to say the #MeToo movement and the Nassar case brought out Lewin’s alleged survivors.
“We don’t necessarily know what sparked them to tell people they trust and come to us,” Weidel said.
One person came to Ramapo police about a month and half ago to talk about Lewin, Colbath said. From there, detectives were able to interview other survivors.
“There’s a possibility there may be adult victims 16 and older, as well,” he said. “We know it’s a very sensitive topic” for people to come forward and discuss.
Lewin has been released on $10,000 bail after arraignment in Hillburn Village Court. Ramapo police were assisted by the county District Attorney’s Office, and Stony Point and Suffern police.
The charge of course of sexual conduct states that, over a period of time not less than three months, an adult older than 18 engages in two or more acts of sexual conduct with a child under 11.
First-degree sexual assault involves having sex with a child or a victim who is mentally incapacitated, mentally disabled or physically helpless.
Police encourage the public to contact them with any information at 845-357-2400.